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Hof van Cleve


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can be found on my blog.  enjoy!  :biggrin:

ulterior epicure.

Beautiful photos and great commentary as usual ulteriorepicure. Your descriptions truly give one a sense what did or didn't work, and why.

BTW, since there has been an ongoing discussion elsewhere on eG about taking photos in restaurants, I'd be interested to know how you approach management about taking photos of their dishes. Or do you approach them at all? Also, flash or no flash? Ever get complaints from fellow diners?

Thanks.

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Beautiful photos and great commentary as usual ulteriorepicure.  Your descriptions truly give one a sense what did or didn't work, and why.

BTW, since there has been an ongoing discussion elsewhere on eG about taking photos in restaurants, I'd be interested to know how you approach management about taking photos of their dishes.  Or do you approach them at all?  Also, flash or no flash?  Ever get complaints from fellow diners?

Thanks.

1. thanks for your nice comments. i enjoy sharing my experiences with others.

2. i'm on that discussion, actually, because i'm on the market for another camera.

3. at h.v.c., i didn't approach management. generally, i feel free to take pictures as long as i don't use a flash. thankfully h.v.c. was pretty well lit so flash was not necessary... however, in really low-lit restaurants, i've had to use "discretionary flash." if it's a truly low-end establishment, or if there aren't many diners around, sometimes i chance the flash on every dish... otherwise, i usually suck it up, turn off the flash and just hold my canon elph VERY still. i've had to experiment... so far, i've been pretty happy with the results - but have been getting kind of frustrated in dim-lit restaurants. a lot of restos, like alinea, don't allow flash - so if you see my photos from there, they're pretty awful.

4. in europe, i've actually been pretty surprised at the kind reception that servers have taken to my clicking away - they usually wait for me to take the pictures before announcing the dish (ie. telling me what's on the dish) - or, where there's table-side preparation (ie. broth-pouring, carving, etc...) involved, they often will wait for me to get a "before" pic before proceeding. i suppose, when in doubt, ask.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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  • 1 year later...
  • 3 months later...

This could be one of the most difficult restaurant to reach (I thought Can Fabes was hard enough to look for), located between Ghent and Courtrai, one still needs to pass along a narrow country lane to discover this farmhouse-like restaurant. Literally, it's in the middle of nowhere - I hardly see any other house surrounding the restaurant, but it's beautiful nevertheless - everywhere is green, very pleasing to the eyes. So here I was, entering the possibly best restaurant in Belgium. The parking lot was already packed, and I could be considered "late" since 90% of the chairs were filled - a big contrast to De Karmeliet that I visited the day before. Without further delay, here's my review

Food/Wine (95/93)

The guest has the option of a la carte and 2 tasting menu (short and long). I chose the longer version - it's the "innovation, and tradition menu" along with the wine-pairing since I thought the cost was quite 'reasonable'. The first 3 courses essentially consists of crustaceans as the main element

- 2 preparations of langoustines (the 'tempura' style is devine while the tartar version is good) with fresh lime mousse while the tender mackerel was just OK

- I would call it as smelt dish since the belgian grey prawns as well as the risotto portion were too small, quite good except the deep-fried smelt was a bit too oily

- lobster is one of my favorite seafood. This one was my favorite for this lunch. The delicious blue lobster was sourced near Holland, its sweetness and great texture mixed well with the clam sauce. The flavorful ham adds additional taste to the fresh Mechelen asparagus.

- the fish dish was Brill. It was slightly intensified with the tasty puree - made of stock fish plus mashed potatoes, the crab was a bit redundant in my opinion, nevertheless it's very good

- this one is supposed to show the chef's preparation of (pan seared) foie gras and eel. I was not moved by the duck liver, while the eel's taste was rather weak (unlike the one you would normally have at Japanese restaurant), but still good. The main star of this dish was the vegetables - simple and pure, taste as they are - carrots, beetroot and onion rings

- for the main course, i had 2 pieces of fine and juicy cutlet veals. The first one is prepared with top quality morels and cheese, while the other one is prepared with melting mozarella (give a salty flavor) - accompanied by a cream of cauliflower. excellent ...

- the tasting menu was surprisingly had no cheese course (it's extra), however the maitre d's (he's a cheese lover and very proud of the restaurant selection) kind enough to let me try a 4-year old comte (as good as one could get for it's from Bernard Antony) and a wonderful l'abbaye de citeaux.

- if you eat near the end of spring season, chances that you will see rhubarb as one of the options. The interesting part of the rhubarb is its sour taste to balanced out the sweetness produced by the other elements, the lychee drink put the fresh taste to leave out any cloying part from the previous dishes

- 3 different preparations of strawberries. the ice cream with gateau caramel is interesting while the coconut + gratin + mousse neutralize the strawberry acidity and lastly the simple fresh strawberries put inside a 'lemon' drink. I like this better than ADPA's fraises de bois

- last but not least, I had the after-desserts petit four here is close to any Ducasse's restaurants. Some of them are a wonderful chocolate-coated ice cream, sweet jelly, eclair with soft cream inside, the canele and madeleine were superior - crisp outside, and soft inside

Foodwise, I put this place is equal to the legendary Troisgros. Seriously ... Chef Goosens is an expert in creating an innovative dish, yet it still includes the tradition element and preparation in it. In my note - I gave 2 3/4* (out of the standard 3*)

The wine-collection here is very impressive, any wine lovers would really love it. But, I did not take notes what unique selection that they have, price wise is about right - almost the same as the other 3-star places outside Paris, London etc. I really like my wine-pairing, they gave 4 glasses of wine and 1 glass of beer (yes, it is). They gave me a local cherry beer "Oude Kriek Boon Lembeek", it is dry and acidic, but refreshing and tasty. I also like my dessert wine - Kracher Burgenland Beerenauslese 2005 (It's balanced in acidity, the fragrant is honeyed tropical fruit with apricot sensations covering the palate). For the rests, please see the pictures. Note - I find the sommelier here, Martyn Soen (he rather looks like Lance Bass from N'Sync ) is very good - both in terms of knowledge and considering customer's need. He's also very friendly and enthusiastic when talking to the customers, explaining in details about his selection and why it's suitable for the dish I ate. He ranks in top 2 in my fav. sommelier (the other one is the former L'Arpege - Stephane Thivat).

Service/Ambiance (97/91)

The highest scoring element for this place is the service - it's flawless, friendly and generous, personal yet respectful. Most of the staffs are relatively young but very knowledgable and performs a high level of competency. I did not order the cheese, but the waiter was happily spending time when we discussed on the cheese that the restaurant has (and end up giving me some ), he also brought me the live lobster from the kitchen when I asked how different it is from the regular Brittany blue lobster. Not only that, the restaurant also helped me to confirm my reservation with Oud Sluis and told me the easiest way to get there from Brugge. What a service! The team here is as good as Courtiade's brigade, it's the highest scoring for service I ever gave (equal with, again, my 1st L'Arpege visit). The humble chef Goossens, living only about 20 min. from the restaurant, greeted his guests at the end to make sure if everything is alright.

The decor is in mural style and simple (I think they did it on purpose). Furthermore, it is adorned with paintings by the local contemporary artists. Overally, it's very comfortable and one could feel very relaxed here, far from the formal impression usually experienced in the Michelin 2-3 star restaurants. The bathroom is made of woody elements with Hermes hand soap inside. On the side of the restaurant, there's a beautuful terrace for guests who want to relax and zip a glass of champagne while enjoying the nature before starting their meals. Now, when somebody asked me - where is the best place to experience 3-star restaurant for the 1st time? I would no doubt put this place at the top of my recommendation lists given that person has no issue in reaching this place.

Thus, the verdict for the overall experience is 94.5/100 (close to 2 3/4* - the same level as Gagnaire Paris). I still do not fully believe if Michelin 3* is strictly from what is served on the plate, I am still convinced the wine selection, the restaurant hospitality as well as the place decoration/ambiance play an important role in their decision (my conjecture could be as high as 30-40% for the grading). Oh, before I forgot, here is the link for the pictures

hof van cleve spring 07

Edited by Bu Pun Su (log)
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Thanks for this report: indeed one of the most difficult restaurants to reacht, esp. if you - as I do - need to rely on public transport...

You may indeed consider this as the best restaurant of Belgium (as well as the most expensive), although some people consider... Oud Sluis (just across the border in Holland) as the best of Belgium :-) - and I must admit, I do agree with the latter.

(By the way, taking a bus from Bruges station to Sluis is indeed a convenient way of getting to Oud Sluis.)

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  • 10 months later...

I had an outstanding meal at Hof van Cleve one week ago and have to report that since Bu Pun Su's report things seem to have improved...

Some details here, for more and pictures see my blogpost (I do not know how to crop the picture so that they fit in here...)

______________

The Menu

... we arrived at HvC and were immediately drawn to the relaxed atmosphere and warm welcome. It was like entering another world... We were seated on the beautiful terrace "but" on the side to the parking lot without the view over the landscape. As aperitif we choose a Billecart-Salmon Rosé champagne which was as always refreshing and not too dry (afterwards we regret this choice a bit as 28 euro per glass is a not yet experienced price level even for a three star Michelin). Appetizers were subtle, had some nice smoky flavors and were a good preparation for the menu.

The menu card reads interesting though a la carte is quite expensive and almost on Paris levels - superior products have some price tag attached. We decided to go for the 9-course tasting menu "De Frisheid Van de Natuur" which offered a nice variety of dishes to taste - a menu dégustation in the best sense it seemed. The description of the specific dishes was less prosaic as in Oud Sluis and made me think that Goossens' cuisine is maybe more reduced and less playful than Sergio's which turned out to be true in the end.

We set out with Langoustine "Guilvinec" curry / kalamanci / avocat which was absolutely fantastic and ranks among my Top 5 dishes ever. The Brittany langoustine was of superb product quality and cooked softly to perfection with crispy skin on the outside and incredible tenderness in the inside - and, yes it tasted as a perfect fresh langoustine should (well, I have not tried the Pacaud or Passard one yet;-)). The carpaccio underneath was a solid basis for the dish.

The combination of kalamanci lime (frequently known as acid orange), curry ice cream, avocado and the two forms of langoustine was playing with all flavors and textures and created sheer pleasure with a not yet experienced taste sensation. On the side they served a curry vinaigrette which added some juiciness and mouth-feel factor... Proportions worked out so well that the main protagonists were never in danger to be dominated. Chapeau - outstanding, a true masterpiece. This dish is similar in style to Sergio's cooking but less complex and maybe a little more to the point.

Then Thon "Bleufin" tomate / crabe / algues - again incredible product quality especially the tomato. This dish was more an interpretation of the three main ingredients and did not have one main player. But the balance of different elements and thus flavors was astonishing.

[...]

Homard de l'escaut de l'est asperges des dunes / basilic / belotta. Peter Goossens just continued to blow my mind with this simple yet ingenious dish. For the last time in this report I want to point out that all courses consisted of superior product quality handled with all due respect and true mastery, this time with "local" lobster from Oosterschelde and asparagus from the dunes served as a cannelloni with belotta ham (Goossens is one of the masters of asparagus). The only problem was that the light made photographing quite challenging:-)) Outstanding.

The next two fish courses let me breathe again, both being excellent but not at the level of the previous dishes.

[...]

Porc "Iberico" coux fleurs / soja / xères - I can't really remember what the cauliflower etc. added to this dish. The fantastic pork (belly and loin I suppose) stood out strongly and dominated the sides. With regard to dramaturgy this was a nice step up and preparation for the main. Very good to excellent.

The third masterpiece of this meal: Veau corrèze "sous la Mère" fevettes / morilles / petits pois. Look at the plate - isn't it just beautiful? The best veal ever, even better than the one we had at the Auberge de L'Ill a couple of weeks before. Goossens sources his suckling veal from the French department Corrèze in the Limousine which is one of the best sources for this product. Together with the peas puree, morels and corn this was a perfect accord with the veal melting in my mouth. Outstanding!

Desserts were excellent to outstanding.

Overall

This was one of my best meals ever on par with Oud Sluis, Le Calandre and Alinea (and Arzak/Amador). Combined with the very nice atmosphere and the impeccable service this was a true three star experience.

The direct comparison to Sergio Herman suggests itself as both are modern in the best sense. Goossens' creations are more reduced, less playful and with more traditional elements and are based on extremely well selected products of astonishing quality. In contrast Sergio's plates are more dense using more elements and more exotic/Japanese flavors. It is hard to choose - do both as they are references with slightly different approaches.

When writing this I was re-reading Andi's report and can only state that Goossens has modernized his style but still links back to French Haute Cuisine. At least in that menu he used less local products than before and showed quite a variety of products and types of dishes - I personally think he can even develop further if he consistently creates dishes like the langoustine...

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  • 1 year later...

After a few very positive reports on Hof van CLeve I decided to take my chances and went for lunch there a few weeks ago. It was definitely one of the better meals this year. some dishes were quite outstanding (desserts, raviolo with langoustine) and one really had the worst veal I have eaten lately. strange thing, but I guess it can even happen to best. Luckily enough the rest made up for it and I can only recommend a little trip to Belgium and a visit here, In de Wulf and a few others in the area. This country really is getting quite interesting in terms of food.

The beauty of the plates was stunning, but in the veal dish the plating must have taken so long that the meat was lukewarm by the time it reached my table.

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